14,429 tourists to come at old SDF rate

As per Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), as of 26 August 2022, 26 tourists visited the country, paying the new SDF of USD 200, and 9 more regional tourists will enter the country at Nu 1,200.

At the moment, 11 tourists are in the country paying the SDF of USD 200, and 19 regional tourists paying Nu 1,200.

27 tourists who came at the new rate have left the country, while 57 regional tourists who paid the new SDF have also left the country.

A total of 14,429 were validated and approved at the previous rate.

As of 29 August, 64 tourists have been approved to visit the country at the previous rate which is USD 65. And presently there are 8 tourists in the country who paid the previous rate, whereas 74 tourists who came at the previous rate have already left the country.

TCB said that the main objective for validation is to facilitate the tourism stakeholders to gain momentum in reopening the tourism industry.

The Official from TCB said that the confirmed tours could not be conducted as the nation restricted entry to the country due to the COVID-19, and it is not the fault of the travelers where as it is a scenario of force majeure. Thus, the validation is to facilitate those travelers who have booked their tours prior to the situation.

The validation is also carried out because the tourism stakeholders do not have a clear understanding of when the tourism will be reopened, and they failed to process the tour booking even though the guests pressured them on traveling to Bhutan.

For the validation process, TCB sent notification on this subject requesting them to provide information via Google form. In the form, they were required to furnish a proof of communication for tour confirmation on or before 20 June 2022, proof of payment and proof of air tickets.

The validation team verified the individual applications and endorsed them accordingly. Those applications which do not have guest details as required in the application form are rejected.

Meanwhile, as per Association of Bhutan Tour Operators (ABTO), tourists are reducing the number of days to visit the country because of the SDF 200.

The Executive Director of ABTO, Sonam Dorji, said that with the new reforms, the industry has realized that Asian market is decimated.

“As was the case with the previous tariff, from the Asian market normally arrives for 4 or 5 days. They may now cut the days by another two or one day,” he said.

He said that it has once again crippled by monument fees, for example, only to see a few monuments in Paro, an individual has to pay Nu 2,000 for Taktsang, Nu 1,000 each for Kichu Lakhang and Rinpung Dzong, so in total each tourist must spend Nu 4,000.

He claimed that the fall season begins from August and is the peak season, and country should be getting 40,000 tourists as received in 2019. 

“The reality is that even for tourists who have previously booked at previous tariff, only 13,000 have confirmed, and the new tariff, according to TCB, only 27 (tourists) will visit the country, so it does not appear to be a promising prospect right now based on past trends and the number of tourists confirmed as of now,” he said.

He added that the industry believes that they should approach as one, rather than TCB as one and industry as another.

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